England in the '20s. Orphaned at the age of 19, middle-class Flora Poste determines to live off her relatives, rather than do anything so uncivilised as work. The only kin that remotely fit the bill are her distant cousins, the Starkadders, who work a decaying farm in Howling, Sussex, amid sundry yokels seemingly inhabiting another, Hardy-esque era. Made for the BBC, this woeful adaptation of Stella Gibbons' pastoral parody had success with American cinema audiences, who took it, perhaps, as just another British costume drama, rather than a comedy. Mind you, given Malcolm Bradbury's script and John Schlesinger's direction, which between them coarsen, soften and simply lose much of Gibbons' extraordinarily sophisticated, wonderfully funny humour, that's not surprising. The performances don't help much either, though that's less the fault of the very broad acting, than of the all-round starry miscasting (Lumley as Mrs Smiling, Fry as Mybug) - Kate Beckinsale in particular is far too sensible as the determined heroine.
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